Monday, August 06, 2007

How Powerful The Mirror!

Don't you meet people all the time that make you think: "If only they knew what they looked like!" Don't you just wish you could just get them a mirror and put them out of their misery? I certainly do! I was reading David Maister's great book, True Professionalism, for the 3rd time and got neck pains from consistently nodding at how logical and, well, obvious it is that the measure of an organization is whether it has the courage to define and the defend its values! When I looked up from the book and peered out the window and the competing firm in the ivory tower across the way I had the opportunity to exercise the other neck muscles as I shook my head in disgust at what exists today in the legal industry: A crisis of values!

When I say values I do not mean some politically conservative statement or one of moral judgment. Rather, I mean a conspicuous absence of stated core values that are enforced and alive inside the firm! At Exemplar, we have eight core values: Excellence, Leadership, Integrity, Team, Trust, Respect, Communication, and Equanimity. What does that mean to us? It means that we talk about these values openly in the firm . . . not just once in awhile but all the time. We talk about them in staff meetings and come to a mutual understanding of what these values mean to us and to our organization. Perhaps most importantly, they are NOT for SALE! It is simply unacceptable to compromise any single one of them in our organization. This brings me to the point of this blog: Taking a look in the mirror. If you are a partner in BigLaw I suspect that the idea of all of the Partners looking in the mirror and seeing how people really see them (or what they think of them) makes you worry that they will all jump out the window of the 45th floor as if to re-enact 9/11. I'll bet you are right.

Most associates I know think the Partners in Power treat them like CRAP!
So, wake up and smell the flowers folks. . . it might be time to look in that mirror and see what the "people" around you really think about you. After all, the only person you are really fooling by sticking your head in the sand is you!

At Exemplar we've got mirrors in place from the start. We are instituting a system that allows everyone around you, both managers and subordinates, to rate you anonymously on the eight core values, the results of which are combined into a report that only you and an executive can see. At periodic quarterly reviews you will be able to see what you really look like to people. After all, consider the following on why perception really is reality!

Our VALUES are not an Objective Standard, They are subjective. The ONLY thing that matters is the mirror: Whether people really think you have them.

Take Leadership: You are not a leader if others do not follow. If people do no perceive you as a leader they are sure not to follow. Therefore, what people think about you in this regard is more important than anything.

Take Integrity: Have you ever heard a story about someone with the highest integrity. . . and nobody thought so? Neither have I!! Perhaps people's perception of your integrity is as critical as integrity itself!

How about Respect? There really is no such thing as a respectful person that causes everyone around them to feel like they are treated like crap!

Need I go on? Probably not! So, you ask, what do you do after someone sees what they look like? Just because they see "Ugly" does not mean they will change, right? RIGHT! That is the point. . . . Check this out.

The result of continuously giving people the "mirror" is that how (or if) they respond says a lot about their character. You see, the people who belong at Exemplar simply cannot stand to see the blemishes on their face. They came to Exemplar because they believe in the values and believe that they have every one of them. So, when they see something they can improve they are motivated to take action to make it better. The great thing about the mirror test for us is that it takes a hell of a lot less policing to identify the DUDS! It is this simple: The Duds will no change in spite of what they see! It makes our job easier. People who do not embrace the values are not disappointed when they look in the mirror and see "jerk" or "client hoarder" or "untrusting bastard!" . . . I can go on. . . you know many people who could be described this way!

So. all you really have to do is put people to the perception test and see if they give a damn! Do you have the courage to implement this in your organization? You have nothing to lose (well, unless your window is open. . . and even then the ones who jump probably did need a complete personality transplant!) Can you think of one good reason people should not be accountable to the values of the organization? I can't!

No comments: